Summer in the City @ The Monarch, Camden — the fan review

- 03/08/2015 -

On a warm and tubeless summer night in London, an occasion happened (as occasions do). Rather than crumble in the face of a city mercilessly bombarding its inhabitants with sunrays and striking train drivers, those in the know partied. No, they really partied. Xtra Mile's Summer in the City — the enthusiastic brainwave of a crazy American — brought four of the label's favourite bands to their favourite venue-slash-pub and a heap of their favourite people (and a few dicks; you know who you are) along for the ride. What follows is what happened.

Summer in the City was all about celebrating our sixth (count 'em!) label compilation entitled, catchily, Xtra Mile High Club Vol. 6: Summer in the City. It's a mere £3.99 for a stonking 24 tracks, and it's download only, so you receive it practically in an instant. Buy it at our digital shop

If you want to see an in-motion depiction of some of the event, watch the video below. Otherwise, read on.

"Guys…I just. I just really love music.

When typed out it looks like a simple throw away sentence, but it’s not. Imagine me grabbing you by the neck of your shirt, up in your face, tears in my eyes, shaking you as I do some weird ugly crying / shouting combo and proclaim “I LOVE MUSIC”. Got that disturbing visual outburst in your head? Good. Because I LOVE MUSIC. That intense and passionate reaction to it is what motivates me to keep coming back to it, keep listening, keep digging in back catalogues and - you guessed it - keep traveling for it.

If you read the XMR HUB regularly, and caught our study in musical adventures, you’ll know I just spent 10 days in the UK for music. Again. Yup, this was my fifth pilgrimage to Great Britain in the name of music. The trip had been originally planned in July 2014 when, almost immediately after the last 2000 Trees had ended, I resolved to return the following year. But then I had a brilliant idea to pack even MORE music into my trip, because, you know, a three-day music festival isn’t enough.

That is what lead me to sheepishly emailing my bosses at Xtra Mile Recordings and pretty much begging for a summer party. You see, Xtra Mile throws parties on occasion but with my bad luck and timing they’re usually in the fall or around the holidays so I cannot attend them and I become a very sad Valerie. Not only am I missing out on hangs with wonderful people, but also a very fun gig? That is a double whammy of PAIN. You can imagine how happy I was though, when plans for a summer gig actually started to take shape. I vividly remember skipping around my house and scaring my dogs, I was that stoked.

The inimitable Monarch — now with Xtra Mile summer bunting!

The inimitable Monarch — now with Xtra Mile summer bunting!

In time our line up was decided: Skinny Lister, Will Varley, and PJ Bond. Three wonderful artists who had recent albums put out by the label. No seriously, each one is amazing and unique in it’s own right. If you haven’t yet heard these beauties, first, what is wrong with you, second, click here to stream our New Releases playlist on Spotify.  Anyway. The lineup would eventually be rounded off with the addition of The RPMs, an unsigned Brighton band who landed themselves a spot on our Xtra Mile High Club, Vol 6: Summer In The City compilation (oh yeah, did I mention that because we were having a summer party, it seemed the right time for a new compilation album? Because that happened. 24 tracks of goodness are available for consumption at only £3.99. THERE IS SO MUCH GOOD MUSIC IN THE WORLD!)



Let’s speed up to the day of the gig. A sunny Wednesday in a warm London with a tube strike looming devastatingly on the horizon. I personally had no idea how tickets had sold, and I was worried no one was going to come down due to the strike. I was worried it wouldn’t go well and it’d be my fault because I was the crazy who begged for this gig to happen. I got to the Monarch and slowly the bands were coming in, setting up, sound-checking. The rest of Xtra Mile Recordings turned up with merch we’d sell later. With help from Dave Danger, we hung up the special XMR bunting I spent a few weeks making. We set up the merch area and I spread out some stickers and wristbands around the pub for people to pick up. We headed out for a quick dinner an hour before doors and returned just after 7pm, with maybe 10 minutes to spare before things kicked off. On the way out the door though, a sign had been placed on the sidewalk. It said Summer In The City had sold out!

When we got back to The Monarch, there was a decent-sized crowd. A lot of people were spread out; having drinks, getting food orders in, checking out merch or the back garden. Not too bad when the strike had started an hour earlier or so. Slowly, people gathered round from the back as The RPMs performed, and more trickled in through the door. Strike be damned! People were getting there one way or another it seemed and I was overjoyed. The RPMs warmed everyone up nice and good with their super fun, upbeat tunes. I look forward to hearing more from them in the future.

Next up was PJ Bond, a fellow American, and all around awesome person. We had bonded earlier in the afternoon over the tri-state area we’re both from on the east coast. Now going into his set, I was only familiar with his most recent release from Xtra Mile, Where Were You?, and I like it a lot. It was good to bop along to. But acoustic PJ? With his back catalogue? Ohhhhh no. It felt like my heart and jaw were on the floor for most of his set because everything was so agonizingly good. The crowd was a bit noisy when he started, but seemed to simmer down as they too fell to the power of his music. Songs like 'Calm In The Corner' and 'Let The Hammer Fall' cut into me and then… THEN… he brought out his friend Tom AKA The Lion and The Wolf and just broke everyone’s heart into pieces by performing 'I’m In A Bad Way' together. When I asked for a summer party, I didn’t ask for my heart to be shattered, but damn did the shattering feel good. Since then I have purchased all the music of PJ’s I could get my hands on and eagerly await a future USA tour. Seriously. This guy? Legit. Too legit to quit, even.

Will Varley in his hirsute glory.

Will Varley in his hirsute glory.

Main support came from the talented Will Varley. He’s one of those musicians where you hear him and you just get angry because a) who gave you the right to do this to my emotions? b) WHY AREN’T MORE PEOPLE PAYING ATTENTION TO WHAT YOU HAVE TO SAY?! I saw Will perform in 2014 supporting Frank Turner in Winchester, and instantly I was hooked on his album As The Crow Flies. The good news is the pub got considerably more packed and everyone was ready for a singalong by the time Varley got up on stage, which he led us in with songs like 'King For A King', 'Weddings and Wars', and recent single 'We Don’t Believe You'. Will has a powerful voice that he uses to sing really gut-wrenching truths with, and also be a bit silly with (see: his new song about his cat going viral for singing Kayne West tunes). He had us all in his hands, and even obliged our pleas for a cheeky encore. The majority of the population isn’t paying attention to Varley, yet, but in The Monarch, at that moment, it felt like the world was screaming along with me.

Then, Skinny Lister’s turn came. I had been wanting to see them live since I first heard 'Trouble on Oxford Street' last year. The Monarch was crawling with people — you could hardly move and I didn’t notice when this had happened. It was just — BAM! — no room. Except dancing room. Folks were crammed up on the steps to the bathroom and lurking in the back where you couldn’t even see the stage from. I stayed up front for the first few songs, 'Raise A Wreck' and 'George’s Glass' before retreating to the back where it was a little less claustrophobic. But man, their set was incredible no matter where I stood. In the back of the pub I was able to have a proper dance with my bosses at Xtra Mile Recordings to 'Trouble on...' and 'This Is War'. Skinny Lister is a band you need to see. If you can keep still while watching them there is probably something wrong with you. And after seeing them here, I cannot wait to see them multiple times on Frank Turner’s USA tour this fall. I bet there is a lot of dancing, singing, and (let’s be real) sobbing in my future come that tour.

A rare twelve-legged Skinny Lister species, in the wild.

A rare twelve-legged Skinny Lister species, in the wild.

Everyone who attended deserved a trophy, really.

Everyone who attended deserved a trophy, really.

When the night ended, Beans On Toast took over as DJ to keep us all moving. The underground wasn’t running so no one had to rush out to catch the last trains. Drinks kept flowing. Selfies were taken. Dance parties kept breaking out all over the pubs, and the singalongs to well loved, classic tunes got louder and louder. A really lovely thing about the party is that other Xtra Mile Recordings artists and friends came out in support, including members of To Kill A King, Frank Turner and Nigel Powell (of The Sleeping Souls/Dive Dive), Rob Lynch, and Felix Hagan, to name a few.

It was a proper party with wonderful people and even more wonderful fans who love music, maybe as much as I do. What better way to spend a Wednesday night in London? What other reasons did I really need to cross an ocean? Thank you to everyone who came out, who sang and danced with me, to the bands who made it the evening it was, and to my bosses for humoring my request and literally going the extra mile to make it amazing. I hope everyone had as much fun as I did."

Valerie Gritsch — Xtra Mile's Biggest Fan / Social Media President

"My journey to the XMR Summer in the City party already began on the day before the event: Tuesday. This was not due to the tube strike, but because it was the day my best friend and I, who live in Germany, arrived in London. We had been dreaming of this holiday for ages and were therefore more than happy to fulfill our dream. As we are both passionate music fans, and London seems to be the origin of good music, we were keen on going to a concert there. The XMR Summer in the City party happened to be in the right place at the right time. Furthermore my best friend and I are both massive fans of To Kill A King (who are also under contract to XMR), so the decision to go was made very easily.
Finally, when we arrived at the Monarch in Camden, after a day of tourist stuff (like seeing the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, which was rather dull), we were not disappointed. People were standing in front of the stage or making themselves comfortable on a sofa, making the atmosphere relaxed and pleasant. All four performances on that evening were awesome, but one man stood out because he was extraordinarily terrific: Will Varley. With his positive presence he fascinated the audience and even though I did not understand every word he sang, I understood enough to know that he is hilarious! His humour combined with his marvelous voice make him a great musician that deserves to be known way beyond the borders of England.

My best friend and I experienced a perfect evening, full of cool music and good-humoured people. Additionally, it was topped off with us meeting Ralph Pelleymounter from To Kill A King, who is one of our favourite musicians. The Summer in the City party was the highlight of our holiday in London and could easily surpass a visit to the British Museum or a trip to Windsor castle. I speak from experience ;-)." 

Katharina Huhn

"Xtra Mile's summer party at The Monarch, Camden, London — a night where I met my idol; shared a drink with a friendly folk group; sang along to atmospheric folk songs; and danced along to a rock 'n' roll band.

I started the evening with two issues: am I going to make it to the venue in time due to the train strike? And if so, am I going to know anyone at this gig? Luckily, I managed to get the overground train with time to grab a burger and share a drink with Skinny Lister. I had a good chat with them about their busy gigging schedule, which included small independent festivals like 2000 Trees, and larger festivals such as Reading. They seemed excited, full of good spirit and were the most welcoming band I have ever met.

The first band kicked-off proceedings, all dressed up, smart-suited and booted. The RPMs were reminiscent of an old rock 'n' roll band. They were soon followed by PJ Bond, whose acoustic music could tear your heart apart. The night got even better when I managed to bump into Frank Turner who was there supporting Xtra Mile, and one of his favourite authors / poets / singers was up next, and Will Varley's songs always got the crowd singing along. The night finished with Skinny Lister who got everyone dancing with 'This Is War'. Their crazy antics continued, as they played other songs off their new album Down On Deptford Broadway which has the sound of Shane MacGowen and the Pogues. 

I left sweaty but feeling part of the Xtra Mile family."

Daniel Bell

"This was an amazing event that introduced me to Skinny Lister and The RPMs but I got to see one of my favorites, Wil Varley, and of course Jay got me busting a move on the dance floor with his awesome DJ set too! I had planned to go solo but once I spread the word, I got about five friends to join me that evening! Good times were had by all at the Monarch that night :)"

Nicole Strawbridge

Had fun? Want another one of these? Got ideas for what else we can do to please you? Get at us on Facebook, or Twitter @Xtra_Mile, even on email at contributions[at]xtramilerecordings[dot]com.